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Governor Dhankhar - Trinamool Congress MPs slug it out on Twitter

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on June 16, 2020 Published on June 16, 2020

Relations between the West Bengal Governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar, and the ruling Trinamool Congress have worsened over the last few weeks with senior party MPs engaging in an open war-of-words with the latter, on social media.

MPs Mahua Moitra, Derek O’Brien and former Rail Minister, Dinesh Trivedi have targeted Dhankhar through individual tweets. The Governor, though, has not backed out. In fact, he has gone a step further to allege that some “private agencies” have gained “control over Twitter accounts” of Trinamool MPs and are using them to “attack the Governor”.

“Some MPs called me up to apologise and say that their Twitter handles are being controlled by someone else. The tweets are not emanated by them. Plus there is an army on Twitter which is now being used to attack the Governor,” Dhankhar told BusinessLine.

He did not name MPs who were in touch with him or the organisation he was referring to. But in a recent tweet, he mentioned: “Can’t believe! Shameful TWITTER SALVOS at Guv by IPACked mercenaries in control of twitter handle of dignified MP with tacit approval @MamataOfficial. NEW LOW.”

When asked, Prashant Kishor, who heads the political advocacy organisation I-PAC, said he would not like to make any comment “on the person occupying a Constitutional position”.

Not referring to I-PAC

Dhankhar incidentally clarified that he was not referring to Prashant Kishor’s organisation and called the latter a “trend setter”. The reference was to “extra Constitutional agencies” which were gaining precedence in the “corridors of powers”.

“In the country, Prashant Kishor is a trend setter of new mechanisms; and, I am confident his team can never foul mouth any Constitutional authority,” he said.

If MPs or senior leaders of the ruling party were unable to voice their own opinion, and if their Twitter handles were being controlled by someone else, then it was a sad reflection of their right to freedom of expression, the Governor added.

Bitter Twitter war

Dhankhar’s relationship with the Bengal government has been thorny to say the least. On multiple occasions he red-flagged governance issues leading to bitter exchanges between Cabinet colleagues of Mamata Banerjee and the Raj Bhavan.

The recent Twitter war with MPs has been “amongst the most bitter ones”, say political observers.

Dinesh Trivedi for instance tweeted that it was “disappointing for the Constitutional head of a state to parrot the narratives peddled by the BJP IT Cell of a party”; while Mahua Moitra referred to the Governor as “firing BJP arrows”. A Whatsapp forward doing the rounds in the name of another MP has the Parliamentarian referring to the Governor as having got a “nominated lollipop post”.

“The language used to attack the Governor is in bad taste. It is completely street level politics,” said a political observer requesting anonymity.

Governor Dhankhar says he remains “committed to the Constitution” and to his “oath of serving the people of Bengal”. “My tweets (on failure of governance) are just the tip of an iceberg,” he said.

Diversionary tactics

Interestingly, Bishwanath Chakraborty, a political analyst, said “If you observe carefully, the tweets come up and this war erupts whenever there is a governance failure by the State government. It seems to be planned as a diversionary tactic by the Trinamool Congress and their image managers.”

When there was public anger over the “audit of Covid-19 deaths”, there was a “war-of-letters” between the CM and Governor. Now, outrage over disposal method of 14 unclaimed corpses is being followed by several MPs directly attacking the Governor.

While, red flagging governance issues is commendable and should be done; “the Governor should refrain from getting into a one-on-one with MPs on Twitter. He need not respond to all provocative tweets. Governors are supposed to be institutions, not individuals,” Chakraborty added.

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Published on June 16, 2020
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